Game Review of I AM ALIVE (PSN/XBLA)

April 20, 2012 in Slideshow, Uncategorized

When I first heard about this game, I’ll admit it, I was excited. Very excited. It seemed like a fresh take on the action-adventure genre, combining elements of horror, survival, and decision making to give a very realistic, immersive experience, and after only watching the gameplay trailer that showcased some of the mechanics of the game (which I will get to later) I was hooked. So when it came out on the PSN Store, I had to get it. However, while I did enjoy the game, there were several areas in the game that just did not work as well as I would have hoped.

Set a year after “the event” – some sort of world-wide catastrophe that is both un-named and un-described – the game follows the journey of the protagonist Adam, who returns back to the fictional Haventon City as this was the last known whereabouts of his wife and daughter, with whom he is apparently estranged but still showing signs of affection.

This is where the gameplay starts to get interesting, because it’s up to you to choose how to you want to face the obstacles that come in your way to survive, and this includes running, sliding, stabbing, shooting, and climbing (which makes up an integral part to this game).
THE GOOD

One of the things that I AM ALIVE does right is how the game reacts to physical exertion. While traditional platforming games allow characters to run or hold on to ledges for infinite periods of time, I AM ALIVE takes a more realistic approach by introducing a stamina bar. If you run, climb or jump  for too long at any one time, and your stamina bar is completely depleted (stamina is regenerative), your character immediately stops what he is doing. So if you are running away from a group of hostiles who are wielding knifes or guns, in the middle of a jump with an VERY big drop, or scaling up the side of a skyscraper, it is important to ration your energy, which adds another element of tension into the game.

Another cool element of gameplay is bluffing. Oftentimes in the game, you are on your own when you encounter groups of four, five, or six. You can just pump round after round of lead into them with your conveniently found machine gun that has an infinite amount of bullets, so no problem, right? Wrong. Even though you start the game with a gun, the ammunition is scarce throughout the game; consider yourself lucky if you manage to converse more than two bullets at any given time. This means that sometimes, you need to point a gun with an empty chamber at your enemies for them to back off, although those with guns and more aggressive enemies will often see through your bluff.

Finally, there are the character interactions. Sometimes, the situations you are put in test your moral sense. Near the middle of the game, I heard the cries of a person seeking help, and I had to decide whether to give the man what he needed, or conserve a medical kit for myself. When I left him there, he screamed at me: “HEY, PLEASE, YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME HERE!”, which I must admit, even though it was a video game, gave me chills down my spine. However, don’t always expect your interactions to be that clear-cut. When I was scaling through train-tracks, I heard the cries of a woman, over and over and over again. So when I did eventually go and try to help the woman, I  was ambushed suddenly by four or five men. Also, when I saw a woman begging for food, I gave her some fruit and carried about my day…only to return and see her hanging from a noose. These and other such interactions bring another element of realism into the game, and force to think about other desperate mothers, fathers, and children, and whether it is worth it to spare your fruit cocktail or medical kit for them.

THE BAD

When i play single player on any game, I’m looking for some sort of a emotional response, I want to connect with the main character, empathize with what he is trying to achieve. So while I felt bad for all the people dying along the side of the street, I just wanted the man to find his goddamn wife and daughter. The bad thing was, this seemly huge element to the story was only explored in the first fifteen and last minute of a four hour game. So while every other part of the game was immersive, to me, I found it that much harder to appreciate the game as whole because there was almost no story involved, and the wife-daughter thing did little more than to give a reason for the setting.
As a whole, the game feels like its missing just that little bit extra, or that if it could have been just a little bit more polished, it could have been one of this year’s best games. I’m sure that if the developers took the time to expand the story properly in the form of a proper retail game, I would have enjoyed this game so much more, as there was only really one compliant with this game, even though it was as big as it was.

Overall:

PROS

-  Ability to interact with your environment
- Inclusion of a stamina bar
- Need to conserve ammo, food, or water
- Immersive gameplay, with music and visuals that amplify the tension

CONS

- Inadequate plot line

Plomonet Rating: 6.5/10

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